Thursday, February 26, 2015

He's the Both/And

As Christians, I think we do a pretty good job understanding the divinity of Jesus. Of course, there are some limits to that. But, for the most part, I think we have found ways to talk about and imagine the godhead in him. Usually, that looks like Jesus the superhero. He's the miracle-worker, knows everything, is ultra-compassionate, and withstands all temptation. We dress him up in his first-century robes, tie a cincture around his waist, and then watch him fly around the countryside, combating evil spirits and saving the day.

As Christians, I also think we do a pretty good job of understanding the humanity of Jesus--maybe not as easily as we grasp his divine nature but still not bad. We talk about his agony in the garden. We hear his scream from the cross. We see him get frustrated with the disciples' obtuseness. We portray the aspects of Jesus we want to see in ourselves.

But where the two intersect--the actual mystery that is the God-man--is something we struggle with.

What does it mean for God's son to be human? What does it mean for this man who was born of an earthly mother to be the second person of the Trinity? How can all of this crash together and hold up at once?

This isn't a post about the Chalcedonian Definition, though I do hold that up to you as absolutely worth reading and knowing about. I'm talking about Sunday's lesson from Mark 8--where Jesus says to Peter, "Get behind me Satan!"

I think we implicitly understand that human beings suffer. We might not understand why, but it's hard to make it through 24 hours without encountering some kind of human suffering. We get that there are people who suffer for the sake of conscience. We get that prophets like Jesus aren't always accepted by the authorities and that sometimes they are killed because of it.

I think we implicitly understand that God has a plan for the world. I think we understand that he is in the work of redeeming all things. I think we can grasp that he came down from heaven in the person of Jesus in order to save us. I think we understand that he came here as God among us.

But I don't think we do a very good job of understand that God came down to earth to open up the way of salvation through the cross. And doesn't Peter do a great job of saying that on our behalf?

The cross isn't an accident. No, we didn't understand who Jesus was, but his death wasn't merely a sign that we didn't get it. Jesus' ministry wasn't a failure. The cross was always where he was headed. How else can you reconcile the union of broken human and perfect divine except in the death and resurrection of the paschal mystery?

This Sunday, when Jesus says to us, "Get behind me, Satan!" he is reminding us to keep our minds set on godly things, including the cross. Look for that place where human and divine intersect. Don't try to hold onto them separately. In the person of Jesus Christ, you can't separate them--nor can we separate the journey to the cross from God's plan of salvation.

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